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Tech exec Nima Momeni formally charged with murder in slaying of Cash App founder Bob Lee

Details of relationship between slain exec Bob Lee and Nima Momeni emerge
Details of connection between slain exec Bob Lee and Nima Momeni emerge 06:06

SAN FRANCISCO -- Tech exec Nima Momeni was formerly charged with murder Friday in the stabbing death of Cash App founder Bob Lee on a San Francisco street in the early morning hours of April 4th.

Momeni made his first appearance in a San Francisco courtroom Friday dressed in a jailhouse orange sweatshirt and pants.

His sister, Khazar Elyassnia, and her husband Dino Elyassnia, a San Francisco plastic surgeon, along with two family members, sat in the front row at the hearing. 

Nima Momeni - charging documents

When Momeni entered the courtroom, an older woman made a heart sign with her hands and Momeni, who was wearing a face mask, smiled and nodded at them.

He did not speak except to say "yes, your honor" when the judge asked if he agreed to decline his right to a speedy trial.

UPDATE: Worried text from suspect Nima Momeni's sister discovered on slain tech exec Bob Lee's phone

Momeni is represented by Burlingame attorney Paula Canny, who is on vacation and whose brother Robert Canny, also an attorney, appeared in her place Friday.

"The facts of what occurred, or didn't occur, will come out over time," he told reporters after the hearing.

momeni-court-sketch sketch by vicki behringer

The formal arraignment, originally set for Friday, was delayed until April 25th with plenty of questions still surrounding the case including if the two men knew each other.

ALSO READ: Emeryville neighbors of Bob Lee murder suspect express shock after his arrest

Cash App Founder Slain
Khazar Elyassnia, left, stands in the Hall of Justice in San Francisco on Friday, April 14, 2023, ahead of an appearance by her brother, Nima Momeni, who has been charged with murder in the death of tech entrepreneur Bob Lee. Elyassnia's husband, Dino Elyssania, is to her right. Momeni's arraignment was rescheduled to April 25, 2023, and he did not enter a plea. Olga Rodriguez / AP

The charging documents revealed that Momeni's sister sent a text message to Lee hours after his stabbing death expressing concerns about his welfare.

Momeni's family declined to answer reporters' questions outside the courtroom.  

During a Friday afternoon press conference, San Francisco District Attorney Brook Jenkins addressed Elyassnia's role in the case, though she noted that it was currently still a part of the investigation.

"What we have at this point -- and what we've been willing to release to the public -- is the fact that Mr. Momeni does have a sister who was connected to Mr. Lee and apparently is what connects the two men, but at this time, we're not revealing any more than what's contained in our detention motion," Jenkins said.

Raw: San Francisco DA Brooke Jenkins talks about charges in Bob Lee murder case 16:13

The DA also said that there appeared to be some discussion between Momeni and Lee about whether or not Elyassnia had used drugs, but that authorities had not released any further details regarding illicit substances being involved in the case.

She also addressed the current situation with Momeni's detention.

"The judge did go ahead and order without prejudice that Mr. Momeni be held in custody without bail," Jenkins explained. "On the 25th we will revisit that detention motion, where we will argue that he should remain in custody the entire time that this case is pending."  

Jenkins also spoke briefly in response to critics who had used the fatal stabbing of Lee as more proof that San Francisco has descended into a state of lawlessness.

"At the time that this happened, people felt unrest, right? They felt very concerned even more scared than they already are," Jenkins said. "We are in a city that has residents and business owners who have public safety as their top concern, who will tell you each and every day that they do not feel safe."

"I think now that we know the facts and understand that this is somebody that Mr. Lee knew, that this was a targeted killing...This is not indicative of the state of affairs here in San Francisco on our streets," she added. "That doesn't mean that we still don't have a lot of work to do, from a public safety standpoint, but I simply don't think Mr. Lee's murder fits into that equation."  

The documents confirmed what a police source had earlier revealed, indicating that Lee had arrived in the Rincon neighborhood prior to the 2:35 a.m. stabbing in a BMW driven by Momeni. The two men were recorded earlier on videotape leaving the Millennium Tower luxury apartments together. 

Nima Momeni
Nima Momeni  Opportunity, Inc.

A source said that based on assorted evidence, investigators determined that Mr. Momeni stabbed Mr. Lee, killing him and obtained an arrest warrant.

Another source close to Lee told KPIX that the CPO of San Francisco-based cryptocurrency startup MobileCoin didn't really know Momeni, but was friends with Momeni's brother. Both Momeni and Lee worked in tech, but the motive for the attack is still unclear.

The San Francisco County jail website showed Momeni had been booked into custody Thursday morning on a murder count.

San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said Momeni would be charged with murder with a sentencing enhancement of using a knife at his arraignment on Friday. She said she would also be asking the judge not to grant Momeni bail.

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"This morning, members of the San Francisco Police Department's investigations bureau and tactical unit served several search warrants and an arrest warrant in San Francisco and Emeryville," San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott told reporters at a Thursday news conference. "Mr. Momeni was taken into custody without incident in Emeryville and was transported to the San Francisco County Jail and booked on one charge of murder."

Scott noted that the case was still an open and ongoing investigation and that police would not be providing any further details at this point. He also brushed away the debate of safety in San Francisco, telling reporters that Lee's slaying involved the dark side of human nature.

"Facts show and research shows that most people who commit homicides know the people who they kill," Scott said. "The research shows that. So I do understand how people see and view things. I see it, I read it. I live here just like a lot of you all. This has nothing to do with San Francisco. This has to do with human nature."  

Scott said the investigation was ongoing, but that Momeni was "our sole focus as a single suspect" in the case.

Also at the Thursday news conference, Jenkins took aim at rumors that Lee's death came as a result of a perceived lawlessness in the city. She particularly singled out Twitter owner Elon Musk.

"While we are not going to release any additional facts at this time, I must point out that reckless and irresponsible statements like those contained in Mr. [Elon] Musk's tweet that assumed incorrect circumstances about Mr. Lee's death, served to mislead the world in their perceptions of San Francisco and also negatively impact the pursuit of justice for victims of crime, as it spreads misinformation at a time when the police are trying to solve a difficult case." 

Musk had tweeted -- "Many people I know have been severely assaulted. Violent crime in SF is horrific and even if attackers are caught, they are often released immediately."

Jenkins confirmed that Momeni would be arraigned Friday afternoon and that she would request he be held with no bail.

Lee's ex-wife Krista Lee was among to first confirm the arrest to KPIX Thursday morning, identifying the suspect as Momeni. Accounts on the LinkedIn and Opportunity networks corresponding to his name list him as an IT consultant/entrepreneur with Emeryville-based Expand IT, which he ran out of his home.

"This is the first step toward justice," Lee said from her home in Miami, where Bob Lee had moved from Mill Valley in the fall.

Meanwhile, neighbors in Momeni's Emeryville neighborhood expressed shock and surprise over his arrest.

Well-known Bay Area public relations veteran Sam Singer never expected he would work next door to Momemi, accused in Lee's killing.

"Total shock," Singer told CBS News Bay Area. "I'm in the public relations business; we don't normally work next to killers."

Singer says he never had a poor encounter with Momeni beyond hearing music a bit too loudly.

"Warm, welcoming, very nice fellow, like any other tech consultant here in the Bay Area, lives in a live-work space," Singer said. "He handed us a stack of cards and said if you ever need anything let me know." 

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